FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — Franklin, Tennessee, moms and Instagram influencers Vanessa Sokic and Nikki Andrews hosted Venmo challenges to help a 25-year-old from St. Louis, Missouri, acquire a new car and find a fresh start.
"I met her through social media, it was just one of those things where she reached out she had a question about something that I love to talk about all the time and I started just getting to know her. And from there, I realized that there was a great need for relationships. I mean, mainly I just realized she needed friends. She needed family-type people to come around her and to support her in a time of need," explained Sokic, who met Keke Chillers on Instagram in 2019.
"We kind of just started talking more and became a friendship out of nowhere. I don't even know how to explain it," recalled Chillers, "And then I mean, now we're here. It's kind of crazy how fast it was."
Although they had not met in person, their relationship grew into a mentorship that Sokic and a group of her friends all started supporting.
"A few months back, we rallied to pay for her senior year of [social work] school... She's so grateful," explained Sokic. "She ended up applying for a grant and telling us later, 'hey, I don't need the money for the second semester. I ended up getting a grant to cover to cover the second semester. Like why don't you use that money to help someone else in need?'"
Andrews was one of Sokic's friends who supported Chillers from afar and decided to bring her to Nashville to meet the women who had been supporting her for more than a year.
"I found out about Keke about a year ago. Vanessa had texted a bunch of Franklin moms to kind of come in and ask who would help support her, encourage her..." explained Andrews.
Nearly a year after first connecting, the moms decided to invite Chillers to Franklin. In the days leading up to her visit, they found out her car was not running well even after several visits to the auto shop.
"We got this crazy idea thinking maybe we can get her a car because her car is on its last leg — it was actually in the shop that week. And so we're like, we're just gonna put it out there on our Instagram and say, you know, 'If anyone wants to help we would love to get her a car,'" explained Andrews.
She and Sokic both posted about it on their Instagram pages and within three days had collected more than $14,000 from 500 strangers to help buy Chillers a better car and surprise her during her visit.
"Vanessa and I thought we were going to pee our pants the whole weekend, just leading up to it. And she [Chillers] had no idea what was in store and I think it's still hard for her to wrap her mind around that," said Andrews. "So many strangers came together to love on her in such a huge way. Something that was so small maybe to some that gave but the massive impact that has made on her life and imprint that it's left on her heart."
Watch part of the surprise in the video below or by clicking here.
"When I walked in, I had no idea and I sat down and he explained to me that they were going to pay for the rental. So I'm like..., ‘That’s really awesome like, that’s amazing. Thank you.’ And then he told me it was a lifetime and so and I was like I was really shocked. It took me forever for it to sink in. I think it was I just really did not believe that this was happening to me. I'm like, ’Wait, what?’ So it took a minute for it to seek to think all the way and I did not believe it!" recalled Chillers.
The Nelson Mazda Cool Springs dealership helped make the quick car purchase possible by covering the sales tax, title and registration.
"It's amazing the impact that we can have when every day we choose to focus on joy and kindness and loving others, especially strangers," said Andrews.
"Even doing something small can make a huge difference in someone's life. Not even monetarily. I've realized that just the relationships that can be formed through social media. Sure, in-person relationships are so important to have but there are people out there that are all alone and social media is truly all that they have to be encouraged by and to find hope," said Sokic. "If you could just do something to love on someone, today and every day, whether it's a big thing or a small thing, just a little way to show somebody that they are seen and that they are special."